Chris Trapani, president of Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley, said on April 7 he has resigned his post as the topranking regional executive for the national brokerage overseeing 17 offices and 1,400 agents in the South Bay.
The 39yearold real estate veteran, who has been selling Silicon Valley homes since 1990, says he intends to start a company of his own and hopes to open his doors within the next 60 days.
Coldwell Banker manager Joe Brown has been named to replace Mr. Trapani. Brown has been the managing broker of two Coldwell Banker offices overseeing their operation and the sales of 185 agents. Mr. Brown says his new job, while a big one, is a natural stepping stone for him.
"I think I’m probably the most qualified to take it at this time. I think I’m up to the challenge," he says.
Mr. Trapani was the Silicon Valley president for CB for the last two years but has a long history in the area as a successful agent, manager and executive.
He is being joined in his new endeavor by Coldwell’s Los Gatos manager, Ryan Iwanaga. The two men have been friends since childhood and grew up together in Saratoga, Mr. Trapani says.
He says he reached his decision after "months of soul searching" and discussions with his family, including his wife and father, his longtime mentor.
"My wife is key. I would never have done it if she weren’t behind me. She is probably more excited about it than I am, if that’s possible," Mr. Trapani says.
His father also backed the decision, which Trapani says has nothing to do with larger changes at Coldwell’s parent company Cendant Corp.
He and Iwanaga intend to pursue creation of a boutique brokerage with up to three offices situated from Los Gatos to San Francisco, Mr. Trapani says.
They hope to attract the most soughtafter cluster of agents in the business those who consistently sell most of the homes that trade in any given year. They do not expect to focus on the sale of homes in any particular price range, he says.
"At this point in my life, I felt it was important to be true to myself," Mr. Trapani says. "I like to create and build and pour myself into people, and my hope is always to make them better.
Instead of having scattered roles, this allows me to have a narrow focus targeted on a few key people."
The business is being backed financially by a group of "private local investors" including himself, he said. He did not release names.
Mr. Brown began his real estate career in 1980 and earned his broker’s license in 1986. At one time, he owned his own company, Number One Realtors Better Homes and Gardens, with two sales offices in Campbell and a mortgage company.
His first order of business will be to find a manager to replace himself, Mr. Brown says. He also will have to work to find a manager to replace Mr. Iwanaga in Los Gatos.
"So short term, I will be making sure agents are unfazed, and it’s business as usual," he says. Beyond that, he says he will be watching the market to ensure the company is adjusting accordingly.
Home sales in the Bay Area have slowed markedly in the last several months after several years of torrid growth and great gains in housing prices. The number of people getting their real estate license skyrocketed with many moving into real estate from lost jobs in the flagging technology industry. Mr. Brown says he expects fewer new agents to join the industry in coming months as a result of the slower sales and for some existing agents to return to positions in high tech.
"And I am absolutely OK with that," he says.
Coldwell Banker is a member of the NRT family of companies. NRT is a subsidiary of Cendant, a New York Stock Exchange traded company.
Washington Mutual at Alum Rock
East San Jose leaders recently welcomed Washington Mutual’s new office at Tierra Encantada as an important step to revitalizing the Alum Rock corridor.
Tierra Encantada last year became the first transitoriented, mixeduse development built in East San Jose. Built in a Spanish Colonial Revival style, the complex features 93 affordable units for rent, plans for 12 town homes for firsttime homebuyers, and 7,200 square feet of retail space.
The Alum Rock corridor is anchored by the Mexican Heritage Plaza to the west and the Alum Rock Village to the east.
"East San Jose residents are flexing their economic muscle resulting not only in incredible buying power, but substantial saving power as well" said San Jose City Councilmember Nora Campos, "The business community and financial institutions like Washington Mutual are recognizing this trend, and are investing their money in the Alum Rock Corridor."
Hundreds take estates tour
Alain Pinel Realtors estimates that several hundred guests took part in its Fifth Annual Estates Tour on April 6.
Participants were treated to private tours in 24 exclusive homes listed for sale in Saratoga, Monte Sereno and Los Gatos, according to Carol Burnett, Alain Pinel’s vice president and Saratoga branch manager.
The private tour is organized each year by Ms. Burnett and Jeff Barnett, who manages the firm’s Los Gatos office.
This year’s featured homes priced from $3 million to just under $8 million in a variety of architectural styles and property sizes with finely finished interiors, furnishings and decorations.
The regional president of Coldwell Banker, the valley’s largest real estate brokerage with about 1,400 agents, has quit to start a brokerage that will focus on some of Silicon Valley’s toniest neighborhoods. Chris Trapani, 39, resigned Thursday as president of Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley, a post he had held since June 2004. His replacement is Joe Brown, a 26-year veteran of the local market who has managed two Coldwell Banker offices in San Jose since 2002.
”My goal is to build more of an exclusive, boutique kind of niche firm . . . to create something that’s going to attract the people that are and will continue to be productive in this business for years to come, regardless changing technologies and business models,” Trapani said.
He added that he hopes to open as many as three offices in the next three to five years. The company will be privately financed, he said. It does not yet have a name or a firm start-up date.
The manager of Coldwell Banker’s Los Gatos office, Ryan Iwanaga, also left the company this week to work with Trapani on his new company.
Brown said his goal as Coldwell Banker’s regional president is to build market share and ”maintain the services that have attracted agents to Coldwell Banker, and support them in their personal business.”
Brown, 55, owned his own company, Number One Realtors, in the 1980s, and also has been a manager for Contempo Realty and Prudential.
The number of people trying to make a living locally in the real estate business has exploded in the past few years.
The Santa Clara County Association of Realtors’ membership has swelled to 8,000 this year, up from about 3,000 in 2002. And some experts estimate there are more than 12,000 licensed real estate agents in the county.
They’ll likely be chasing far fewer sales this year than last — about 22 percent fewer houses sold during the first two months of 2006 compared with the same period in 2005.
Larry Knapp, president of Alain Pinel Realtors, one of Coldwell Banker’s biggest competitors in the valley, learned Friday of the changes at Coldwell Banker. Of Trapani’s plan to start a new real estate company he said, ”it’s more expensive than ever, and the environment is more competitive than ever. So, hats off to someone who aspires to do that, and we’ll watch and see what happens.”
Sereno Group formed by former Coldwell Banker CEO
The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal reports that Chris Trapani, the CEO of Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley until last April, intends to open his first office by July 13. The new firm, called the Sereno Group, will occupy the old Alain Pinel offices at 214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Road.
Trapani reports that he has hired thirty agents, including local superstars Lucy Wedemeyer, Carol Jeans and Steve and Christine Perry, and the top-selling Ducky Grabill.
“We’re pretty fortunate to start off with the all-stars,” Trapani says. For example, the founding team includes four of the top fourteen selling agents from Coldwell Banker, which employs 1,400 agents.
“We live in a unique and wonderful area of the world,” says Lucy Wedemeyer, one of those top fourteen agents, “and we need to remember that.”
The idea is to build a strong–Trapani doesn’t say small–a strong, local company.
“People need to know that the management, from top to bottom, is here locally,” explains Trapani. “And we’re accountable.” The Sereno Group will offer “locally-owned, community based” realty.
Trapani grew up in Saratoga and began selling real estate straight out of college in 1990. His grandfather sold real estate in Willow Glen in the 1950s, and Chris has the old “Trapani Realty” sign. One gets the impression that the fact that the new venture is not called Trapani Realty is a statement of policy.
“It’s about people,” Lucy says, echoing Trapani’s enthusiasm for the new team. “So many phenomenal people with their hearts in the right place.”
Sereno Group Real Estate, a new progessive and tech savvy company, announces the opening of its flagship office in Los Gatos, CA. Sereno Group was able to attract the top agents in Los Gatos, an upscale, high-end market, representing over $500 million dollars in sales volume, placing this new company in the top five brokerages in Santa Clara County.
LOS GATOS, CA, Jul 6, 2006 – /FLIERWIRE/– On its opening day, Sereno Group Real Estate announces it has hired 35 of the most productive agents and managers in Santa Clara County. Based upon their 2005 sales volume, it is estimated that the sales team will produce over $500 million in sales during the first twelve months of operation. "That will place us among one of the top five firms in the Silicon Valley with just one office," says Chris Trapani, President and CEO.
Trapani left his position as President and COO of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage-Silicon Valley with longtime friend and business associate, Ryan Iwanaga, formerly the Manager of Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley’s top producing office in Los Gatos, on April 6th and began working on the creation of Sereno Group shortly thereafter.
The company was created with the goal of returning to the rich history of Silicon Valley real estate — a business model based upon strong, local ownership, a close-knit core group of seasoned, highly productive agents working for the quality of their clients’ experience and strong community based relations. Each agent on this original team was carefully chosen based upon a combination of values congruent with Sereno Group and productivity. The emphasis of the organization is focused on a group concept where agents will set a new standard of assisting each other and providing the absolute best real estate sales experience.
While the business model is a return to the past from a cultural and philosophical perspective, Sereno Group will be leveraging the most advanced technology platform offered in the Silicon Valley. Each agent will have the option of receiving a state of the art laptop with the latest G3 technology which includes a built in wireless card, giving agents broadband access to the web and essential real estate tools wherever a cell signal exists. Sereno Group will be the first residential real estate firm to provide laptops to sales associates, offering them a truly mobile solution in the field. The office boasts five plasma television screens which will be used to maximize property research and presentations, highlighted by a 65" unit which will be used to promote Sereno Group listings by displaying to the agent team listing data, photos and virtual tours on the screen continually.
Sereno Group was fortunate to attract the top four agents at Coldwell Banker Los Gatos in terms of sales volume over the past several years, Ducky Grabill, Carol Jeans, Steve and Christine Perry and Lucy Wedemeyer. These four agents were among the Top 1% in Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley, representing four of the top 14 out of over 1,400 sales associates companywide. Two top managers also left Coldwell Banker to join the Sereno Group-Iwanaga (Vice President and Assistant Manager of Sereno Group Los Gatos) and Raylene Khan formerly Manager of Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley-Almaden.
The Sereno Group’s mission is to create a unique and personal upscale real estate experience. The Sereno Group has collectively agreed to act as a unified group working together to leverage their talents to better serve each of their clients.
SERENO GROUP’S FOCUS TO BE UPSCALE AREAS
SUE MCALLISTER, Mercury News
The former head of Silicon Valley’s largest real estate brokerage announced Thursday that he will open a new realty firm next week that will focus on some of the valley’s priciest neighborhoods, including Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Almaden Valley.
Chris Trapani, who resigned in April as regional president of Coldwell Banker, said the new firm is called Sereno Group. It will open for business by next Friday with more than 30 real estate agents, all of whom used to work for Coldwell Banker, he said.
”Our general goal was to create a company that from a cultural perspective was reminiscent of the past — locally owned and operated,” said Trapani, 39, who co-owns the new company with his father, Marko Trapani. He said the company will employ about 50 or 60 agents per office, instead of the 100 or more that are typical of larger brokerages.
”It’s hard to provide consistent, quality service that people can depend on with a broad brush,” he said, referring to his intention to keep offices small, and staffed only with experienced agents.
Trapani said he has hired some of his former employer’s best-known and most productive agents in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Almaden Valley, including Lucy Wedemeyer, Ducky Grabill, Carol Jeans and Steve and Christine Perry.
”It’s kind of an all-star team,” he said.
Those agents sold a total of nearly $200 million worth of property in 2005, he said, with 160 total transactions.
The 2006 market is slower than in recent years, but Trapani said he thinks his company’s experienced agents will be able to capture a significant number of listings in their markets.
”In a cooler market, clients are looking for quality and differentiation, and an advantage,” he said.
Robert Moles, chairman of rival firm Intero Real Estate Services, said he thinks Silicon Valley’s demographics — including its role as a magnet for technology professionals worldwide — provide long-term stability for the local real estate market. But with home values appreciating more slowly and fewer homes selling than in recent years, Moles said now was a ”little tougher time” to start a new brokerage than when sales are booming, despite those demographics.
On the other hand, he said, ”Sometimes when it’s a little tougher time, it’s when agents look around a little. When you’re so busy and things are so good, you almost don’t have time,” he said.
And moving among companies is fairly common in the intertwined Silicon Valley real estate industry, where most brokerages’ executives have worked together at one point or another.
Trapani, for example, started his career in the Los Gatos office of Contempo Realty in 1990, when Moles was that company’s president. Contempo eventually merged into Century 21 and then Coldwell Banker. In 2002, a group of former Contempo agents left Coldwell Banker to form Intero, which now has 44 offices from the Bay Area to Arizona.
”In my opinion, there is always room for good competition, and I think Chris will be very good competition,” Moles said.
Sereno Group’s office is in Los Gatos on Los Gatos-Saratoga Road. Trapani said he plans to open as many as four additional branches in the next five years, perhaps in Saratoga, Los Altos, Menlo Park and San Francisco.
Chris Trapani, the former president of Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley who quit his highprofile job in April, says he has hired 30 agents for his new company and intends to open his first office in Los Gatos within the next 10 days.
The new firm, called the Sereno Group, will locate its founding office in the same 5,500 square feet that also served as an original office for Alain Pinel Realtors, Trapani says. The address is 214 Los GatosSaratoga Road.
Alain Pinel, founded by entrepreneur Paul Hulme about 15 years ago, is now a dominant regional brokerage with strong name and brand recognition.
The Sereno Group’s business model centers on attracting only the topproducing agents in the market place. It has stipulated that its agents must have aggregate annual sales of at least $10 million and must maintain that level to stay, Trapani says.
For seasoned real estate agent Ducky Grabill, beating that benchmark should not be a problem. Ms. Grabill specializes in Los Gatos homes and last year sold properties valued in excess of $65 million. She was the topselling agent at Coldwell’s Los Gatos office for 14 years in a row, she says.
A former agent with Trapani at Coldwell Banker, Grabill says the working environment at the Sereno Group is a welcome change, though she admits that the decision to leave Coldwell Banker was not an easy one.
"The business model of 50 desks in an office with 150 agents working out of them is not efficient," she says.
Agents in those settings often have little experience and a lot of company resources are devoted to helping them get started, she says. "It’s draining."
Sereno also has attracted at least four other topproducing Coldwell agents: Lucy Wedemeyer, Carol Jeans and Steve and Christine Perry. In addition, Raylene Khan, the former manager for the Coldwell Banker San Jose office for the Almaden area, resigned that post Friday, also to join Sereno as an agent, Trapani says.
The Los Gatos office is the first of several that the Sereno Group plans for the Bay area, though Trapani says expansion will be north and "disciplined and deliberate."
All-star team works out of Los Gatos office
ALMADEN WEEKLY TIMES
July 21, 2006
By Carol Rosen
If you’re wondering where your favorite realtor went, there’s a new office in town, staffed with top sellers from the South Bay.
Nearly 40 realtors have joined the new Sereno Group, most of them coming from Coldwell Banker and selling into Almaden, Willow Glen, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell and areas up the Peninsula. All have experience selling higher-end homes and many are in the top 15 percent of sellers.
The Sereno Group is the brainchild of Chris Tripani, former president of Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley. He and the realtors that have joined him, including Steve and Christine Perry, were looking for a more dynamic, but homogeneous group of realtors that know their way around the business.
The upshot is a smaller office, currently about 35 realtors versus 200 at Coldwell Banker, with agents that are seasoned, concerned about quality and know and understand the culture and communities they are selling into. He chose the name Sereno because it means serene, he said, and indicates that the group will do its work quietly and efficiently.
“Steve and I have been looking for what to do next [for a while now],” said Christine Perry. “With Sereno, we’re more into quality now. We’re working with a group of quality, seasoned people…and the core group of associates is in the top 1 percent. It’s a selective group that is ethical and not cutthroat. It’s a different type of environment and there’s enough business for everyone.”
Tripani’s idea was get back to the roots of the business. “My grandfather had a real estate firm on Lincoln Avenue, it was locally owned and community-based. Sereno is taking us back to the roots and richness of having a local company that is more exclusive and selective about the people it hires,” Tripani said.
When Tripani first started in the real estate business, he worked for small, local firms like Cornish and Carrey. But in the last 10 years, there has been a great deal of consolidation among realty firms leaving a few really big firms that are overloaded with a large number of agents. Typically, the newer agents need more help and the older, more seasoned realtors need to work with them to get the job done, he said.
That means that top sellers aren’t always able to do their own work. In the Sereno Group, all the realtors work together, but because all the agents are seasoned they have time to get their own work completed.
“Much of our job has nothing to do with sales,” says Carol Jeans, who has been in the business for 15 years and joined Sereno when Tripani set it up. “It has to do with a million things other than sales, including developing relationships with your customers. The large firms, with lots of new people, leave little time to do your own relationship building because you are busy helping out new agents.”
“The goal for large companies is to hire new people because the company can earn more from the splits,” Jeans added. “The agents at Sereno raise the bar. We have less liability and fewer problems, and we’re able to get back to community roots.”
She and Christine Perry agree being with a smaller, local firm allows realtors the ability to better understand both the community and the housing market.
It’s hard for a corporate company based in Cleveland to understand the buyers, the culture and the community in northern California, said Tripani. All realty firms have the same technical tools, but these work even better with agents that know the market and their customers, he said.
“This is very exciting and we’re all very happy,” said Jeans. “We [all] have kind of this new energy. Everyone is pitching in to make everyone successful. It’s a team approach.”
While some may not consider this a good time to start a new real estate firm, with the market declining, Tripani and Perry both said that’s not true for them.
“In the first week we were in business we have 40 to 50 listings,” Tripani said. “The average list price was about $1.5 million. The homes we were selling ranged from $700,000 to $4+ million.
Our goal is not the biggest brand. Sereno is focused on building a strong foundation. Sellers are looking for differentiation and the substance behind the agent. This is a good time for us to start.”
“It may be a declining market for some people,” added Perry, ”but it’s an opportune time for us. We’re established agents and that separates us from the rest of the industry. We’re passionate toward real estate, and we’re all busy. There’s always a need for good real estate agents.”
The Sereno group recently opened its first office in Los Gatos on Los Gatos Saratoga Road. Tripani envisions at least two more in the next several years with as many as five offices in the future. The plan is to move up the Peninsula into San Francisco. However, “I don’t want more than 60 agents in the Los Gatos office. We’ve already been asked to set up an office on the Peninsula,” he said.
The current group will be selling into Almaden, Willow Glen, the Rose Garden, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Campbell and the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Besides the Perrys and Jeans, Almaden realtors Suzanne Freeze and Sam and Tammie Peters signed on to join the firm on July 14. Others switching teams include Raylene Kahn, who managed the Almaden Coldwell Banker office for three years, and realtor Lucy Wedemeyer.
Local real estate experts have been predicting a cooling market, but that doesn’t seem to worry Chris Trapani, who recently opened Sereno Group, a Los Gatos-based real estate company that is targeting only upscale neighborhoods, including Almaden Valley, Los Gatos, Saratoga and Monte Sereno.
The former regional president of Coldwell Banker said he plans to capture the market with his local roots, personal experience and by assembling an all-star team. Sereno has attracted some of the top real estate agents in the area, including Almaden agents Steve and Christine Perry. Sereno Group also brought on board Ducky Grabill, Carol Jeans, Lucy Wedemeyer, Ryan Iwanaga, former Los Gatos manager for Coldwell, and Raylene Khan, who was a San Jose manager with Coldwell in the Almaden area.
"These are people who are household names. We’re confident that they’ll capture significant market share, regardless of what’s going on in the market," Trapani said.
Agents must sell at least $10 million annually to remain on the team, Trapani said. Based on the team’s previous sales, Trapani is predicting the company will produce more than $600 million in sales the first year.
How the formation of Sereno Group will affect other realty companies has yet to be seen. Margaret Yost, an agent who sells homes in the Almaden Valley for Coldwell is not worried about the added competition.
"It’s always been a competitive business," Yost said. "There have always been lots of choices for the consumer, and now there’s one more choice. Competition makes everybody work sharper."
Khan said while leaving Coldwell was hard; joining Sereno Group was a no-brainer. She is not worried about the market. She said while fewer units are being sold, many of the top agents are still above where they were last year in terms of sales.
"The top-producing agent in Almaden has already produced everything she did last year," Khan said.
According to statistics from RE Infolink, between April and June of 2005, 162 single-family homes were sold in the Almaden area at a median price of $937,000. In 2006, the total number dropped to 115, but the median price of those homes rose to $1,064,000.
Trapani brings Iwanaga into The Sereno Group
By Shannon Burkey
Ying and yang is how Chris Trapani and Ryan Iwanaga describe themselves–two complementary opposites.
And it is their differences they hope will make them successful as they start on a new venture in life.
"Over the years, there is a familiarity with our history. No doubt, when you know where someone comes from, you know their parents and what they are about, there is an understanding there," Trapani said. "I may be looking at something one way and bounce it off him, and he will either confirm what I was thinking or he might shed a different light on it that I might not have thought about."
The two men were in the sixth grade when they became friends. Now, nearly two decades since their families moved in next door to each other on Saratoga’s Sobey Road, the two remain a constant in each other’s lives.
Through the years, they have been teammates, classmates, fraternity brothers and co-workers.
They have seen each other through marriage, the birth of their children and the loss of a family member. Now they are opening their own company in the area that they have called home for so long.
The pair opened a new real estate company, The Sereno Group, at the beginning of July in Los Gatos and said they hope their knowledge and love of the area will help make them successful in giving back to the area.
"Growing up here, we felt like we kind of understand this area," Trapani said. "Hopefully it will be beneficial in other ways, to the people who have put their faith in us."
It has been a long journey to get to where they are today. But people who know them are not surprised that they are doing this together, Trapani said.
The two became fast friends in 1978, getting into mischief. They spent their days at each other’s houses and got to know one another’s families.
"Ryan had an indoor racquetball court at his house, so we would spend a lot of time there," Trapani said. "And at night his dad would cook late-night munchies for us on their hibachi grill."
As they grew older, they became teammates on the Saratoga High School football team, and fraternity brothers at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
In 1990, while attending summer school at Cal Poly, Iwanaga received a late-night phone call about his father’s sudden death. Driving home with only the clothes on his back, he had to call his childhood friend and ask him to pack some clothes and bring them to him.
"He was very supportive of me during that time," Iwanaga said of Trapani, who spent nights in a sleeping bag on the floor of Iwanaga’s room.
Up to this point, the two men’s lives had followed a similar path. But after college, their paths diverged. Trapani came home to begin his career in real estate, while Iwanaga decided on a career in academia and left the state to pursue his master’s degree at the University of Oregon.
Trapani’s grandfather owned Trapani Realty in Willow Glen in the ’70s, so real estate had always been in his blood. Upon graduating from college, Trapani started at Contempo Realty in Willow Glen.
While Trapani was making a name for himself in the Silicon Valley real estate market, Iwanaga was busy elsewhere. After completing his master’s degree, Iwanaga began to pursue his doctorate at the University of Houston. But after the birth of his daughter, he felt the need to do something else.
Iwanaga called his longtime friend, who was with Century 21 Seville Contempo at the time, and Trapani offered him a job.
"There has always been a parallel in our lives," Iwanaga said of his return to the area.
Both of their careers took off in the real estate field. Trapani became president of Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley, and Iwanaga became the manager of Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley’s office in Los Gatos.
Although they had been thinking about a venture of their own for a while, it was not until April 7, when they both resigned from Coldwell Banker, that it started to become a reality for them.
The Sereno Group wants to try to get back to the intimacy of the real estate business.
"Buying a house is probably the single biggest investment a person will make in their lifetime," Iwanaga said. "People tend to lose focus on that. There is a need for us to have that sensitivity and focus."
In looking at the marketplace, Trapani said he realized that there were not a lot of locally owned companies anymore. He said his group wants to take a page out of history and get back to the simplicity of the business.
The two hope that their life experiences and their history will help them to better serve their clients and the community. Their success will come from valuing the relationships they make, Iwanaga added.
"I think what is important is that we are all on the same thought process in our value systems. Everyone on our team recognizes that selling real estate is more than just selling houses," Iwanaga said. "There is an obligation and an understanding of the community. We want people to look at us not only as Realtors but as friends."
After working with the two at Coldwell Banker, childhood friend Ed Graziani recently made the decision to join the men in their new endeavor. Graziani said he liked that The Sereno Group is about being local and knowing the community and the market they represent.
"It’s very exciting. There is an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm among the agents here," Graziani said. "The people that are working here see this as a business, not just as a pastime."
Despite the fact that some people have said that the pair are "too young and inexperienced," Trapani said that he looks at it as an advantage.
"We recognize that in any business there is opportunity for anybody that has the heart," Trapani said. "In some ways we have probably surprised ourselves, but deep down we knew we were capable of doing what we are doing. If a challenge comes up, you can either be scared away and always wonder, or you can step up and take it."
With close to 40 employees and new state-of-the-art offices, The Sereno Group is projecting $600 million in sales in the next 12 months.
"There are a lot of people putting their faith in us, and we appreciate that and are very grateful for that faith," Trapani said. "It resonates some deep cords."
But most importantly, the two said they are proud to be starting this venture together and in the place where they grew up and their families still live.
"No matter how old you are, it is still kind of cool to make your parents proud," Trapani said.
Participants will be off and running again on April 15 when the Great Race returns to Los Gatos and Saratoga for its 30th year. Runners will break from the starting line in downtown Saratoga and race down Big Basin Way and up Highway 9 before finishing on N. Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Los Gatos.
Traditionally, pearls are the gift for a 30th anniversary. While it’s a safe bet that few of the participants in the upcoming 30th running of The Great Race will be so bejeweled, all will be celebrating this local rite of spring in style.
On April 15, nearly 3,000 residents of the West Valley will put aside their thoughts of the looming tax deadline and focus on the finish line. Starting near Big Basin Way in Saratoga, the runners, joggers, walkers and strollers will make their way over Highway 9, completing a 4-mile course that ends on N. Santa Cruz in Los Gatos.
This being the edition that marks three continuous decades of the Great Race, event organizers are going all out to make it a run to remember. "The Great Race is such a wonderful event that involves so much of the community," says race chairman Mike Norcia of the Los Gatos Rotary, which took over the staging of the race in 1983. "The Rotary is always honored to put it on."
As long-timers well know, the Great Race was launched in 1978 by Saratoga Mayor Bill Glennon, when he challenged residents of his city and the town of Los Gatos to take part in a "friendly" competition. Glennon had just formed a running club and was encouraging members to train for and complete a marathon. To facilitate that training and get the communities involved, he suggested the race.
Back then, a starting gun went off simultaneously in both towns, and runners headed directly toward each other along Highway 9. When both groups met on the 3.8-mile course, there was plenty of good-natured cheering and heckling. Over time, as the popularity of the race increased, the resulting pile-up on Highway 9 proved treacherous. Wisely, local officials decided to change the race to a one-way, Saratoga-to-Los Gatos course, and it remains so to this day. Also, the length of the race has been stretched out a bit, to a full 4 miles.
Many other changes have taken place during the event’s 30 years. Originally, major funding came from Great Western Savings and Loan Association, then continued under Downey Savings and Loan Association after its purchase of Great Western. In the mid-’80s Saratoga Savings and Loan stepped in, ponying up $10,000 to become the major underwriter. The Rotary Club of Los Gatos has since been the guiding light of the event, supported by the generosity of real estate institutions such as Cornish & Carey, Contempo and Coldwell Banker Silicon Valley.
"The real estate community has always been excited about being involved," says Saratoga native and Rotary member Chris Trapani. Formerly president of Coldwell Banker SV, and the founder of the Sereno Group, Trapani says, "The Great Race is fun, it brings together all segments of the community, and it’s for a really terrific cause. This year the Sereno Group will have close to 30 employees competing, plus we’ll have another 30 or so handing out T-shirts to finishers. We believe in having our people actively involved in the event, instead of just sending in a check." Trapani’s company has contributed $15,000 to the Rotary to help stage the 2007 race, and an additional $2,000 to the Los Gatos Rotary Charity Foundation to support its projects.
In honor of the 30th annual Great Race, Norcia and his fellow Rotarians promise some exciting new additions. For example, the Rotary is partnering with Ultimate Body Potential to ease runners’ aching muscles. UBP, a Los Gatos-based firm that offers whole-body conditioning and fitness programs, will supply a massage team that will give free "therapeutic reposturing" postrace rubdowns. "I’m so excited to be sponsoring the 30th annual Great Race!" says Michelle Van Otten, owner of UBP.
Norcia is sure there will more than a few "masters" athletes queuing up for body work after the race. "This is a unique area, in that we have an extremely talented pool of runners of all ages," says Norcia. "Last year’s race was won by Jeff Longo, a 40-year-old who basically kicked the rear of a guy who was 24. With races of this length, usually you have a lot of people in their 20s posting the best times. That’s not always true with the Great Race; we all kind of pull up the level of competition for each other."
Longo and Norcia are just two of the "oldtimers" who’ve competed in the race since its first running. Norcia says the Rotary plans to honor all of the veterans of the race who will be lacing up their running shoes this year.
In addition to the massages, finishers and their families will be entertained by the classic rock sounds of the Raging Weasels, fronted by Rotary member Russ Klein, and can enjoy food provided by Inner Wheel, the Rotary’s women’s auxiliary. Also, the crowd can check out green energy solutions from Akeena Solar, new sponsors of the 2007 Great Race.
Norcia gives a special nod to the Los Gatos and Saratoga business and service communities for making the Great Race such an enduring part of the area’s history.
"The local running stores have really stepped up to the plate to make this a success," he notes. "Athletic Performance, Runner’s Factory and now Running Revolution in Campbell have all been awesome. As soon as we get the registration forms printed, they’re out there signing people up, and distributing the T-shirts. Even though the trend nowadays is for online registration, more than half of our runners sign up at one of the local stores.
"And the Boy Scouts are fantastic; they’re out there rain or shine at the water station at La Hacienda. Without the support of the community, the Great Race would never be possible."
Space is still available for two-legged competitors wishing to enter the 30th annual Great Race (sorry, no pets or bikes, although smaller athletes in baby strollers are allowed). The cost is $24 and the proceeds go to Rotary charities. For information and entry forms, stop by any of the area’s running stores, or visit www.losgatosrotary.org.
And happy 30th, Great Race!